Redblacks' offence starts hot, then goes out, while Esks warm up to win Grey Cup

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly raises the Grey Cup after his team defeated the Ottawa Redblacks in the CFL's 103rd Grey Cup championship football game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Lyle Stafford

WINNIPEG—The Ottawa Redblacks started Sunday's Grey Cup on fire, but then had their offence largely extinguished in cold conditions at Investors Group Field. Meanwhile, Edmonton took a while to warm up, cooled back down again, but then came through in the clutch for a 26-20 win.

The Redblacks went up 13-0 before the Edmonton offence even got the ball, thanks to an opening 61-yard touchdown drive, a Kendial Lawrence fumble on the subsequent kickoff return, and another 40-yard touchdown drive (with a missed convert). From there on, though, the Eskimos adjusted; Ottawa only managed two further field goals until the fourth quarter, and Edmonton scored 17 by the half. Both teams slogged it out the rest of the way; it was 19-18 heading into the final frame, with Ottawa extending the lead to two points at 5:59 on a 72-yard punt single from Chris Milo. The Eskimos' offence then came through, though, pulling together a touchdown drive and a two-point convert, getting a defensive stop, and then grinding out enough first downs to win.

The Redblacks' first drive was fantastic, but it almost started disastrously. Henry Burris' opening throw for Chris Williams was into double coverage and nearly picked by Cauchy Muamba. After that, though, Burris led a surgical drive, completing three straight passes to Maurice Price, Greg Ellingson and William Powell, having Powell run for seven yards, and then hitting Williams for 22 and Patrick Lavoie for a three-yard touchdown on a perfectly-read blitz. It set a great start for the underdog Redblacks, which then got even better when Jake Harty forced Lawrence to fumble and Antoine Pruneau recovered. That set up another scoring drive, with two Powell runs and two Burris strikes to Ernest Jackson, including the seven-yard touchdown pass.

When Edmonton's offence finally got the ball, they were a little slow to warm up. Adarius Bowman made a 17-yard catch and Akeem Shavers had a pair of runs for eight and four yards, but then the Eskimos only advanced thanks to a pass intereference call against Pruneau in coverage of Kenny Stafford. Reilly then threw two incomplete passes for Stafford before the Eskimos settled for a 25-yard field goal to get on the board. The real momentum-changing play came right afterwards, though, with Burris running for just a yard on first down and horribly underthrowing a deep ball on second down, which was easily picked by Edmonton's Patrick Watkins. That got the Eskimos' offence going; Reilly hit Lawrence and Stafford, then ran twice and completed a touchdown pass to Bowman for 23 yards. A Whyte convert made it 13-10, Ottawa, and that's how the first quarter wrapped up.

Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris (1) is sacked by Edmonton Eskimos' Odell Willis (41) and Marcus Howard (91) during the CFL's 103rd Grey Cup championship football game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The second quarter's early drives didn't create much, with Ottawa settling for a Milo field goal from 26 yards and Whyte missing from 44 (but producing a rouge). However, Reilly then produced a remarkable eight-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, capped off with a two-yard pass to Shavers. Edmonton went for two, but Reilly missed Stafford on a pass, leaving the score Edmonton 17, Ottawa 16. That ended most of the offence we'd see; Burris did lead a 75-yard drive for a 33-yard Milo field goal in the third quarter, but then it was just a 69-yard punt single from Edmonton's Grant Shaw (making it Ottawa 19, Edmonton 18) and Whyte clanking a 35-yard FG off the upright for no points.

The Redblacks added a rouge in the fourth, and then the Eskimos' offence finally got rolling, with Reilly driving much of the length of the field (aided significantly by head coach Chris Jones using a challenge and getting a pass interference call from it) and backup QB Jordan Lynch plunging for the TD. A two-point conversion on a pass from Reilly to Shavers made it 26-20, Edmonton.

That gave Ottawa the ball back with a chance to win, but once again, their offence wouldn't start. A Dexter McCoil sack of Burris (thanks primarily to great downfield coverage) forced the Redblacks to punt inside the final two minutes and hope their defence could get a stop. It couldn't, though. Edmonton kept the ball on the ground, pounding it out with runs from Reilly, Shavers and Bowman, and picked up enough first downs to hang on for the win. It was a grind for them, but in the end, their offence warmed up enough and Ottawa's froze over. That meant the Eskimos got their first Grey Cup victory since 2005, and meant the Redblacks' storybook season didn't have the happiest of endings.